Anna Chatterton (2009 cohort)
I credit myself as being a “playwright, performer and librettist.” However, before coming to the University of Guelph MFA program, I hadn’t written a play on my own in almost ten years. I'd spent the last decade co-writing and performing five plays with my theatre company (Independent Aunties), writing librettos for opera, and being involved in multidisciplinary creations.
I was quite busy outside of school while doing the MFA. I premiered and performed in two shows and was running the Write from the Hip program for emerging writers at Nightwood Theatre. It was important to me to be able to integrate my school life and my work life in the professional theatre and opera world (and not have to “stop” my career to get my masters). The program is set up to make this possible, and our cohort was a wonderful mix of writers fresh from their undergrads and mid-career writers.
An incredibly valuable aspect of the program for me was the close mentorship of the masterful Colleen Murphy, and my thesis advisor—a longtime hero of mine—Judith Thompson. With these two powerhouse playwrights, I was able to intimately discuss my work and also the business of playwriting. Mentorship is more often thought of when you are an emerging writer, but to have a mentor when you are older is an incredible gift and one that I recommend. I developed two plays during the program, one of which recently premiered at Tarragon Theatre; the other was picked up by another company and will premiere next fall in Toronto.
Peers in the program are also a great resource and support. I became close friends with a non-fiction and fiction writer (Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Best Place on Earth) who was incredibly generous with her time and gave me close feedback on all of my prose writing while in the program. I learned so much from her, and I loved our intense discussions about craft. Her perspective was incredibly helpful. Though I haven’t yet gone back to prose writing, which was an entirely new experience for me, I do intend to, and I now feel I have the tools to to explore that path when I have time.
What I really appreciated about the MFA instructors was that they wanted to communicate and share every aspect of what they knew and did with their own writing, which felt like such a generous act. When I think of my time doing my MFA, I think of the generosity of all the writers I met.
Anna Chatterton is a playwright, librettist and performer. Her play Within the Glass was recently produced at Tarragon Theatre where she is a playwright in residence. Anna co-writes and performs with the acclaimed theatre collective Independent Aunties. Their sixth play, Gertrude and Alice will be produced with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in March. As a librettist her work has been produced by Canadian Opera Company (Swoon), World Stage/Harbourfront Centre/Urbanvessel (Voice Box), The Banff Centre (Crush), and Theatre Centre/Urbanvessel (Stitch—Dora award nomination for Best New Opera). Upcoming: Rocking Horse Winner in May (Tapestry Opera), and The Man Who Married Himself (Toronto Masque Theatre). Anna is also the playwright in residence at Nightwood Theatre this season and was recently invited to be a playwright in residence at the National Theatre School of Canada.
[featured: spring 2016]
Urbanvessel's opera Stitch: text & music
Interview: Hamilton Spectator